Thank You, Bryan Goebel

When you take a step back and look at the evolution of San Francisco’s streets, it is truly impressive how much has improved for pedestrians, cyclists, and the public realm since Bryan launched Streetsblog SF in 2009. Progress seldom happens as rapidly as we might like, especially when you’re taking on something as deeply entrenched as car-centricity, but the pace of change in San Francisco undoubtedly quickened after Bryan came on the scene. Parklets, protected bike lanes, a citywide pedestrian safety directive – none of that existed a few short years ago. Without the reporting, watchdogging, and analysis from Bryan and his staff, the state of livable streets in the Bay Area would not be what it is today.

Bryan is leaving Streetsblog at the end of the month, and on behalf of the editors and reporters who’ve worked with him, I’d like to say a few words of praise and appreciation.

On a personal level, Bryan has made me a better reporter and editor. His professionalism and experience in the news business seeped in to the way we run every other part of Streetsblog. Under Bryan, Streetsblog SF started breaking stories and landing interviews with influential policymakers at a prodigious rate. I’m still kind of blown away by the fact that he got a sit-down interview about street safety with the police chief. That’s something I still aspire to do.

From my vantage point in New York, the value of Bryan’s work at Streetsblog San Francisco is immediately apparent. Streetsblog’s presence in each city helps serve as a conduit for innovation – highlighting improvements in one city that can be adopted in the other. What started out as “parklets” in San Francisco became “pop-up cafes” in NYC. And Streetsblog SF made it impossible for then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to ignore the fact that NYC DOT was putting his city to shame when it comes to preventing pedestrian injuries and deaths. The mayor announced San Francisco’s pedestrian safety directive not long after Streetsblog’s Matthew Roth called on him to step up and match NYC’s commitment to pedestrian safety.

The list of Streetsblog SF’s successes under Bryan could go on. And it’s critical that the blog’s impact does go on after he leaves at the end of the month. There is still so much more to accomplish to ensure that San Francisco lives up to its “transit-first” promises: Muni routes that must be improved for transit riders, streets that must be made safer for walking and cycling. Streetsblog will continue its role as an online nerve center for the community working to achieve these changes and overcome the inertia that too often prevents progress. With a new mayor entering office next year, the need for Streetsblog to raise the standard for local electeds is as great as ever.

Bryan has been the bedrock of Streetsblog SF since its inception, and his departure is setting in motion a period of transition. There are two needs we have to meet to ensure that Streetsblog SF navigates the transition successfully: Funding and talent.

Streetsblog SF readers stepped up in a big way when we first asked for contributions to sustain our work in the Bay Area. We’re deeply grateful to all our donors, who’ve funded a lot of great livable streets coverage. Thanks to your donations, the support of sponsor Mike’s Bikes, and contributions from institutional funders, we have a good baseline to build on. Now we need to grow these revenue sources and make them more predictable.

I have been working with Bryan and our director of development, Christa Orth, to survey the funding landscape and develop a long-term revenue plan. Right now, this is the question I would like you to ask yourself: How much is Streetsblog San Francisco worth to you? What are you willing to contribute each year to keep informed about livable streets issues in your community and hold politicians’ feet to the fire on transit and street safety policy? We’re not asking for checks or donations at this point. What we need to know, to plan for the future of Streetsblog SF, is the level of reader support we can count on.

If you want to help personally, or you work for a local business who would like to support Streetsblog by placing an ad or sponsorship, you can email Christa: corth [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

When it comes to talent, running a full-fledged Streetsblog operation day in and day out requires journalistic skill, subject matter expertise, and passion — a rare combination. But I know that the quality of Bryan’s work has inspired many talented people, and we’ll be combing the Bay Area for the right person to take over the blog. Over the past three years, Streetsblog SF has thrived with as many as three full-time reporters and as few as one. For now, we are looking for one editor to serve in a capacity similar to Damien Newton at Streetsblog Los Angeles, producing most of the content and managing a stable of other contributors.

We’ll be posting the editor’s job description soon, but if you already know you want to throw your hat in the ring, you can email me your resume and cover letter: ben [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

In my experience, it takes about 12-16 weeks to conduct this kind of search and know you are making the right choice. There will probably be an interim phase on the blog, between Bryan’s departure and the hiring of a new editor, during which we’ll rely on freelance contributors and volunteers to produce content. We’ll continue to publish daily during this period and to syndicate our national stories from Streetsblog Capitol Hill and the Streetsblog Network.

If you would like to write for Streetsblog SF on a freelance basis – by compiling the daily headlines or writing original features and commentary – then show us what you’ve got. Drop me a line and describe how you want to contribute.

To our Bay Area readers — thank you everyone for making Streetsblog SF the community that it is, for supporting our work, and for working toward more livable streets. And thank you Bryan for giving it your all. Can’t wait to see what you write these next three weeks and what you accomplish post-Streetsblog.

Ben Fried
Streetsblog Editor-in-Chief